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Pottery vessels which had contained beer, found with human remains in platform moundPeer-Reviewed Publication

DARTMOUTH COLLEGE

original article: eurekalert.org

Alcoholic beverages have long been known to serve an important socio-cultural function in ancient societies, including at ritual feasts. A new study finds evidence of beer drinking 9,000 years ago in southern China, which was likely part of a ritual to honor the dead. The findings are based on an analysis of ancient pots found at a burial site at Qiaotou, making the site among the oldest in the world for early beer drinking. The results are reported in PLOS ONE.

The ancient pots were discovered in a platform mound (80 m x 50 m wide, with an elevation of 3 m above ground level), which was surrounded by a human-made ditch (10-15 m wide and 1.5-2 m deep), based on ongoing excavations at Qiaotou. No residential structures were found at the site. The mound contained two human skeletons and multiple pottery pits with high-quality pottery vessels, many of which were complete vessels. The pottery was painted with white slip and some of the vessels were decorated with abstract designs. As the study reports, these artifacts are probably some of “the earliest known painted pottery in the world.” No pottery of this kind has been found at any other sites dating to this time period.

The research team analyzed different types of pottery found at Qiaotou, which were of varying sizes. Some of the pottery vessels were relatively small and similar in size to drinking vessels used today, and to those found in other parts of the world. Each of the pots could basically be held in one hand like a cup unlike storage vessels, which are much larger in size. Seven of the 20 vessels, which were part of their analysis, appeared to be long-necked Hu pots, which were used to drink alcohol in the later historical periods.

To confirm that the vessels were used for drinking alcohol, the research team analyzed microfossil residues— starch, phytolith (fossilized plant residue), and fungi, extracted from the interior surfaces of the pots. The residues were compared with control samples obtained from soil surrounding the vessels.

The team identified microbotanical (starch granules and phytoliths) and microbial (mold and yeast) residues in the pots that were consistent with residues from beer fermentation and are not found naturally in soil or in other artifacts unless they had contained alcohol.

“Through a residue analysis of pots from Qiaotou, our results revealed that the pottery vessels were used to hold beer, in its most general sense— a fermented beverage made of rice (Oryza sp.), a grain called Job’s tears (Coix lacryma-jobi), and unidentified tubers,” says co-author Jiajing Wang, an assistant professor of anthropology at Dartmouth. “This ancient beer though would not have been like the IPA that we have today. Instead, it was likely a slightly fermented and sweet beverage, which was probably cloudy in color.”

The results also showed that phytoliths of rice husks and other plants were also present in the residue from the pots. They may have been added to the beer as a fermentation agent.

Although the Yangtze River Valley of southern China is known today as the country’s rice heartland, the domestication of rice occurred gradually between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago, so 9,000 years ago, rice was still in the early stage of domestication. At that time, most communities were hunter-gatherers who relied primarily on foraging. As the researchers explain in the study, given that rice harvesting and processing was labor intensive, the beer at Qiaotou was probably a ritually significant drink/beverage.

The residue analysis of the pots also showed traces of mold, which was used in the beermaking process. The mold found in the pots at Qiaotou was very similar to the mold present in koji, which is used to make sake and other fermented rice beverages in East Asia. The results predate earlier research, which found that mold had been used in fermentation processes 8,000 years ago in China.

Beer is technically any fermented beverage made from crops through a two-stage transformation process. In the first phase, enzymes transform starch into sugar (saccharification). In the second phase, the yeasts convert the sugar into alcohol and other states like carbon dioxide (fermentation). As the researchers explain in the study, mold acts kind of like an agent for both processes, by serving as a saccharification-fermentation starter.

“We don’t know how people made the mold 9,000 years ago, as fermentation can happen naturally,” says Wang. “If people had some leftover rice and the grains became moldy, they may have noticed that the grains became sweeter and alcoholic with age. While people may not have known the biochemistry associated with grains that became moldy, they probably observed the fermentation process and leveraged it through trial and error.”

Given that the pottery at Qiaotou was found near the burials in a non-residential area, the researchers conclude that the pots of beer were likely used in ritualistic ceremonies relating to the burial of the dead. They speculate that ritualized drinking may have been integral to forging social relationships and cooperation, which served as a precursor to complex rice farming societies that emerged 4,000 years later.

Jiajing Wang is available for comment at: jiajing.wang@dartmouth.edu. Leping Jiang and Hanlong Sun at Zhejian Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in China, also served as co-authors of the study.
 

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Article published by smithsonianmag.com

Strict gender norms pushed them out of a centuries-long tradition

Alewives drinking together
Three women dressed in period garb as alewives. The tall hats became a part of witch iconography. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis via Getty Images)

smithsonianmag.com 
March 8, 2021

Editor’s note, March 17, 2021: Last week, we ran this story that originally appeared on The Conversation, a nonprofit news outlet that publishes writing by academic experts from around the world. After publishing, we heard from multiple scholars who disagreed with the framing, analysis and conclusions discussed in the article below. They argue, in fact, that contemporary depictions of witches originated in sources other than women brewers and that the transfer from women to men of the work of brewing, in various geographic and historical settings, came about for economic and labor reasons. We addressed a number of factual errors in our March 10, 2021, editor’s note, found at the bottom of the page, and we have changed the headline from its original version.

To understand the fuller context of this history, we encourage readers to also look at two blog posts from historian and archaeologist Christina Wade, linked here and here, and an essay by beer and spirits writer Tara Nurin, linked here, as recommended by the Smithsonian’s own brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, curator of the American Brewing History Initiative at the National Museum of American History.

What do witches have to do with your favorite beer?

When I pose this question to students in my American literature and culture classes, I receive stunned silence or nervous laughs. The Sanderson sisters didn’t chug down bottles of Sam Adams in “Hocus Pocus.” But the history of beer points to a not-so-magical legacy of transatlantic slander and gender roles.

Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work—that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, may have emerged from their connection to female brewers.

A routine household task

Humans have been drinking beer for almost 7,000 years, and the original brewers were women. From the Vikings to the Egyptians, women brewed beer both for religious ceremonies and to make a practical, calorie-rich beverage for the home.

In fact, the nun Hildegard von Bingen, who lived in modern-day Germany, famously wrote about hops in the 12th century and added the ingredient to her beer recipe.

From the Stone Age to the 1700s, ale – and, later, beer – was a household staple for most families in England and other parts of Europe. The drink was an inexpensive way to consume and preserve grains. For the working class, beer provided an important source of nutrients, full of carbohydrates and proteins. Because the beverage was such a common part of the average person’s diet, fermenting was, for many women, one of their normal household tasks.

Some enterprising women took this household skill to the marketplace and began selling beer. Widows or unmarried women used their fermentation prowess to earn some extra money, while married women partnered with their husbands to run their beer business.

Witch from Hansel and Gretel
A 1916 illustration of the witch from the German children’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.”(GraphicaArtis via Getty Images)

Exiling women from the industry

So if you traveled back in time to the Middle Ages or the Renaissance and went to a market in England, you’d probably see an oddly familiar sight: women wearing tall, pointy hats. In many instances, they’d be standing in front of big cauldrons.

But these women were no witches; they were brewers.

They wore the tall, pointy hats so that their customers could see them in the crowded marketplace. They transported their brew in cauldrons. And those who sold their beer out of stores had cats not as demon familiars, but to keep mice away from the grain. Some argue that iconography we associate with witches, from the pointy hat to the cauldron, originated from women working as master brewers.

Just as women were establishing their foothold in the beer markets of England, Ireland and the rest of Europe, the Reformation began. The fundamentalist religious movement, which originated in the early 16th century, preached stricter gender norms and condemned witchcraft.

Male brewers saw an opportunity. To reduce their competition in the beer trade, these men accused female brewers of being witches and using their cauldrons to brew up magic potions instead of booze.

Unfortunately, the rumors took hold.

Over time, it became more dangerous for women to practice brewing and sell beer because they could be misidentified as witches. At the time, being accused of witchcraft wasn’t just a social faux pas; it could result in prosecution or a death sentence. Women accused of witchcraft were often ostracized in their communities, imprisoned or even killed.

Some men didn’t really believe that the women brewers were witches. However, many did believe that women shouldn’t be spending their time making beer. The process took time and dedication: hours to prepare the ale, sweep the floors clean and lift heavy bundles of rye and grain. If women couldn’t brew ale, they would have significantly more time at home to raise their children. In the 1500s some towns, such as Chester, England, actually made it illegal for most women to sell beer, worried that young alewives would grow up into old spinsters.

Witches in a Graveyard with Cauldron
Tools for brewing beer—like the cauldron—became part of the popular iconography associated with witches. (Historica Graphica Collection / Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Men still run the show

The iconography of witches with their pointy hats and cauldrons has endured, as has men’s domination of the beer industry: The top 10 beer companies in the world are headed by male CEOs and have mostly male board members.

Major beer companies have tended to portray beer as a drink for men. Some scholars have even gone as far as calling beer ads “manuals on masculinity.”

This gender bias seems to persist in smaller craft breweries as well. A study at Stanford University found that while 17 percent of craft beer breweries have one female CEO, only 4 percent of these businesses employ a female brewmaster—the expert supervisor who oversees the brewing process.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For much of history, it wasn’t.

Editor’s note, March 10, 2021: This article has been updated to acknowledge that it isn’t definitively known whether alewives inspired some of the popular iconography associated with witches today. It has also been updated to correct that it was during the Reformation that accusations of witchcraft became widespread.This article was originally published on The ConversationRead the original article.

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Original article on theguardian.com

Donna Ferguson

The Banquet of the Monarchs, c1579, by Alonzo Sanchez Coello
The Banquet of the Monarchs, c1579, by Alonzo Sanchez Coello: ‘high food culture’ in the middle ages.Photograph: Album/Alamy

A love of complex smells and flavours gave our ancestors an edge and stopped hangovers

Human evolution and exploration of the world were shaped by a hunger for tasty food – “a quest for deliciousness” – according to two leading academics.

Ancient humans who had the ability to smell and desire more complex aromas, and enjoy food and drink with a sour taste, gained evolutionary advantages over their less-discerning rivals, argue the authors of a new book about the part played by flavour in our development.

Some of the most significant inventions early humans made, such as stone tools and the controlled use of fire, were also partly driven by their pursuit of flavour and a preference for food they considered delicious, according to the new hypothesis.

“This key moment when we decide whether or not to use fire has, at its core, just the tastiness of food and the pleasure it provides. That is the moment in which our ancestors confront a choice between cooking things and not cooking things,” said Rob Dunn, a professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University. “And they chose flavour.”

Cooked food tasted more delicious than uncooked food – and that’s why we opted to continue cooking it, he says: not just because, as academics have argued, cooked roots and meat were easier and safer to digest, and rewarded us with more calories.

Some scientists think the controlled use of fire, which was probably adopted a million years ago, was central to human evolution and helped us to evolve bigger brains.

“Having a big brain becomes less costly when you free up more calories from your food by cooking it,” said Dunn, who co-wrote Delicious: The Evolution of Flavour and How it Made Us Human with Monica Sanchez, a medical anthropologist.

However, accessing more calories was not the primary reason our ancestors decided to cook food. “Scientists often focus on what the eventual benefit is, rather than the immediate mechanism that allowed our ancestors to make the choice. We made the choice because of deliciousness. And then the eventual benefit was more calories and fewer pathogens.”

Human ancestors who preferred the taste of cooked meat over raw meat began to enjoy an evolutionary advantage over others. “In general, flavour rewards us for eating the things we’ve needed to eat in the past,” said Dunn.

In particular, people who evolved a preference for complex aromas are likely to have developed an evolutionary advantage, because the smell of cooked meat, for example, is much more complex than that of raw meat. “Meat goes from having tens of aromas to having hundreds of different aroma compounds,” said Dunn.

Prehistoric woolly mammoth hunters
Prehistoric woolly mammoth hunters. Photograph: North Wind Picture Archives/Alamy

This predilection for more complex aromas made early humans more likely to turn their noses up at old, rotten meat, which often has “really simple smells”. “They would have been less likely to eat that food,” said Dunn. “Retronasal olfaction is a super-important part of our flavour system.”

The legacy of humanity’s remarkable preference for food which has a multitude of aroma compounds is reflected in “high food culture” today, Dunn says. “It’s a food culture that really caters for our ability to appreciate these complexities of aroma. We’ve made this very expensive kind of cuisine that somehow fits into our ancient sensory ability.”

Similarly, our proclivity for sour-tasting food and fermented beverages like beer and wine may stem from the evolutionary advantage that eating sour food and drink gave our ancestors.

“Most mammals have sour taste receptors,” said Dunn. “But in almost all of them, with very few exceptions, the sour taste is aversive – so most primates and other mammals, in general, will, if they taste something sour, spit it out. They don’t like it.”

Humans are among the few species that like sour, he says, another notable exception being pigs.

At some point, he thinks, humans’ and pigs’ sour taste receptors evolved to reward them if they found and ate decomposing food that tasted sour, especially if it also tasted a little sweet – because that is how acidic bacteria tastes. And that, in turn, is a sign that the food is fermenting, not putrefying.

“The acid produced by the bacteria kills off the pathogens in the rotten food. So we think that the sour taste on our tongue, and the way we appreciate it, actually may have served our ancestors as a kind of pH strip to know which of these fermented foods was safe,” said Dunn.

Human ancestors who were able to accurately identify rotting food that was actually fermenting, and therefore OK to eat, would have had an evolutionary advantage over others, he argues. If they also figured out how to safely ferment food to eat over winter, they further increased their food supply.

The negative consequence of this is that fermented, alcoholic fruit juice, a sort of “proto wine”, would also have tasted good – and that probably led to horrific hangovers.

“At some point, our ancestors evolved a version of the gene that produces the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in our bodies, which is 40 times faster than that of other primates,” added Dunn. “And so that really made our ancestors much more able to get the calories out of these fermented drinks, and it would also probably have lessened the extent to which they had hangovers every day from drinking.”

Flavour also drove humanity to innovate and explore, Dunn says. He thinks one reason our ancestors were inspired to begin using tools was to get hold of otherwise inaccessible food that tasted delicious: “If you look at what chimpanzees use tools to get, it’s almost always really delicious things, like honey.”

Having a portfolio of tools that they could use to find tasty things to eatgave our ancestors the confidence to explore new environments, knowing they would be able to find food, whatever the season threw at them. “It really allows our ancestors to move out into the world and do new things.”

Still Life with a Turkey Pie, by Pieter Claesz, 1627.
Still Life with a Turkey Pie, by Pieter Claesz, 1627. Photograph: FineArt/Alamy

Stone tools in particular “fast-forward” the ability of humans to find delicious food. “Once they can hunt, using spears, they have access to this whole world of foods that were not available to them before.”

At this point, Dunn thinks humanity’s pursuit of tasty food started to have terrible consequences for other species. “We know that humans around the world hunted species to extinction, once they figured out how to hunt really effectively.”

Dunn strongly suspects that the mammals that first went extinct were the most delicious ones. “From what we were able to reconstruct, it looks like the mammoths, mastodons and giant sloths all would have been unusually tasty.”

To replicate the eating habits of prehistoric humans, the book, published later this month, details how one scientist dropped a horse who had just died into a pond and assessed how it fermented over time. “He would sample some meat to see if it was safe to eat. He described it as delicious – a little bit like a blue cheese,” said Dunn.

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Original article in aAPNews.com, feb 13, 2021

By SAMY MAGDY

CAIRO (AP) — American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what could be the oldest known beer factory at one of the most prominent archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, a top antiquities official said Saturday.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the factory was found in Abydos, an ancient burial ground located in the desert west of the Nile River, over 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Cairo.

He said the factory apparently dates back to the region of King Narmer, who is widely known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150 B.C.- 2613 B.C.).

Archaeologists found eight huge units — each is 20 meters (about 65 feet) long and 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) wide. Each unit includes some 40 pottery basins in two rows, which had been used to heat up a mixture of grains and water to produce beer, Waziri said.

The joint mission is co-chaired by Dr. Matthew Adams of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Deborah Vischak, assistant professor of ancient Egyptian art history and archaeology at Princeton University.

Adams said the factory was apparently built in this area to provide royal rituals with beer, given that archaeologists found evidences showing the use of beer in sacrificial rites of ancient Egyptians.

British archaeologists were the first to mention the existence of that factory early 1900s, but they couldn’t determine its location, the antiquities ministry said.

With its vast cemeteries and temples from the earliest times of ancient Egypt, Abydos was known for monuments honoring Osiris, ancient Egypt’s god of underworld and the deity responsible for judging souls in the afterlife.

The necropolis had been used in every period of early Egyptian history, from the prehistoric age to Roman times.

Egypt has announced dozens of ancient discoveries in the past couple of years, in the hope of attracting more tourists.

The tourism industry has been reeling from the political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The sector was also dealt a further blow last year by the coronavirus pandemic.

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original in archaeology.org

Peru

By BENJAMIN LEONARD

November/December 2020Alcohol Peru Wari Chicha Brewery(Ryan Williams/Cerro Baúl Archaeological Project)

Chicha brewery, Cerro BaúlAlcohol Peru Wari Serving Jar Deity Cup(Ryan Williams/Cerro Baúl Archaeological Project, Cyrus Banikazemi/Cerro Baúl Palace Project)

Serving jar (top), Front-Facing Deity cup (above)High atop a mountain in southern Peru, leaders at the remote administrative center of Cerro Baúl once entertained local elites with elaborate feasts that helped sustain the Wari Empire from about A.D. 600 to 1000. Central to these gatherings was the ceremonial drinking of chicha, a typically corn-based fermented beverage. Based on the size of the spaces where the feasts took place, archaeologists think that they held 50 to 100 guests who imbibed chicha from vibrantly painted ceramic cups. These cups ranged in size to reflect the status of the drinkers and were decorated with images of Wari heroes and gods, such as the Front-Facing Deity, and more local stylistic flourishes, including llamas adorning the deities’ faces. “One of the most effective ways to bring local elites into the hierarchy of the empire was through drinking Wari beer the Wari way,” says archaeologist Donna Nash of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who codirects excavations at Cerro Baúl with archaeologist Ryan Williams of the Field Museum. “Many of the stories, songs, and ideas that went with that probably would have been expressed using the iconography on the vessels guests were drinking from.”

Because Cerro Baúl was a provincial outpost on the empire’s edge, the Wari relied on local resources and on-site brewing to maintain a steady flow of chicha. Nash and Williams have unearthed a large brewery where high-status Wari women ground, boiled, and fermented corn and other ingredients to produce the beverage. Analysis of residue extracted from drinking cups, serving vessels, and oversize storage jars from the brewery’s fermentation room indicate that the drink was likely a mixture of corn and molle, or Peruvian pepper tree berries, whose seeds the archaeologists found in large quantities in the brewery’s trash pits. Although the Wari at Cerro Baúl didn’t have direct access to fresh water, the region’s temperate climate was a boon for chicha production, even during more arid periods. “Molle berries produce year-round in this environment,” says Williams. “Corn can be double or triple cropped, so you can get two to three times the corn from a single year’s harvest.”

The Wari’s self-sufficiency ensured that feasting events could continue regardless of political disruptions or trade delays elsewhere in the empire. The archaeologists have determined that even the cups the Wari used were made in a ceramic workshop on the mountaintop using high-quality clay from a source they controlled across the valley, rather than imported from the distant imperial capital.

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Archaeology.org
Source: Proof Positive   

Baking bread, ancient Egypt

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Around 600 beer bottles were found stacked beneath the stairs of a building next to Scarborough Castle Inn in Leeds. [Image: Archaeological Services WYAS]

Archaeology.co.uk

Excavations on the site of Tetley’s Brewery in Leeds have revealed intriguing insights into the 18th- and 19th-century development of the city. Carried out by Archaeological Services WYAS, the investigation explored buildings along Hunslet Lane, including the location of the Scarborough Castle Inn, adjacent shops, and a side street known as South Terrace.

The well-preserved foundations and basements of these properties were exposed – all brick-built, with the majority having sandstone foundations – below layers of concrete. Far from being mundane footings, they tell stories of alteration, renewal, life, and war.

For example, the footprint of the Scarborough Castle Inn and nearby shops showed signs of significant alterations, including the addition of cellarage and the raising of the floors to match an increase in road level. The pub’s front wall had also undergone extensive work to prevent its collapse, while debris in the enterprise’s cellar included the twisted remains of enamel advertising signs and a single Tetley’s beer bottle. The adjoining shops yielded a small assemblage of shoe nails and leather offcuts, which had fallen down behind a floor slab, traces of the bootmakers that once worked and lived there.

It was the cellar of a building adjacent to the pub that produced the most surprising find, however. Lying in neatly stacked rows beneath the stone stairs of the cellar were around 600 bottles. The distinct smell of beer, on their initial exposure, indicated that they were full when stacked although most of the corks had since degraded. Some, however, still contained liquid and analysis of one tightly corked bottle gave an ABV of 3%. The majority of the bottles were stoneware and stamped with J E RICHARDSON LEEDS. John Edwin Richardson was a grocer and provision merchant who lived in various properties in Leeds; he was recorded in the 1901 census as living on Hunslet Lane. Why he left the bottles and how they were forgotten before the building was demolished, though, remains a mystery.

The row of houses known as South Terrace had also undergone extensive alterations, including the complete realignment of its western wall to allow for the widening of Hunslet Lane. A later basement contained another surprising discovery: a set of six interconnected brick- and stone-built ducts. Could these have been an underfloor heating system? The ducts were accessed via a small basement room, which later seems to have been used as an air-raid shelter, from which four gas masks were recovered in the backfill.
These excavations concluded at the end of March, and it is anticipated that analysis of the recovered artefacts, combined with historical research, will produce illuminating insights into life in developing Leeds.

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On this day ten years ago…
via Funerary Feast of King Midas pt 2

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On this day ten years ago…
via Remains of 1,100-year-old drinking pot help pinpoint Wallingford’s history

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First posted June23 2010
via 9,000 year old beer recreated

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